2 Corinthians 8:1-15
It is well known that the apostle Paul organised a collection from the Greek churches of Achaia and Macedonia for the benefit of the impoverished churches of Judea. It may seem extraordinary that he should have devoted so much space in his letters to this mundane matter. On the contrary, he saw it as relating to the grace of God, the cross of Christ, and the unity of the Spirit.
The late John Stott sets out a few principles on “Christian giving” based 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.
Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (2 Cor 8:1-6). Behind the generosity of Macedonia, Paul saw the generosity of God. For grace is another word for generosity. Our gracious God is a generous God, and he is at work within his people to make them generous too. The remarkable thing about the Macedonians is that they gave beyond their ability (v.3). They also begged Paul for the privilege of sharing in this service to God’s people in Judea (v.4). Indeed, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to Paul and his apostolic band (v.5).
Christian giving can be a charisma, a gift of the Spirit (2 Cor 8:7) So, while the Corinthians excelled in the spiritual gifts of faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness and love, the apostle urges them to excel ALSO ‘in this grace of giving’ or in the ‘gift’ of giving. Paul Barnett remarks: “Certainly it will come as a great surprise to many to discover that generous giving to support others is a ‘gift’…Have we heard of believers praying to receive this gift?
Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ (2 Cor 8:8, 9) Paul reminds the Corinthians that because of our poverty Christ renounced his riches, so that through his poverty we might become rich. Paul challenged the Corinthians to imitate Christ in the style of the Macedonians.
Christian giving is proportionate giving (2 Cor 8:10-12) Paul does not ask them to do as the Macedonians did and go beyond their means but only to give according to their means. They are not to go into debt, to become “disadvantaged or overburdened”. That is why he asks them to simply give “according to your means” (lit., “out of what you have”). Thus, Christian giving is proportionate giving. The eager willingness comes first. So long as that is there, the gift is acceptable according to what the giver has, not according to what he has not (v.12).
Christian giving contributes to equality (2 Cor 8:13-15) Rather than the Corinthians gift providing relief for Jerusalem which would result in financial hardship for the Corinthians, Paul says that there is to be equality.
Paul reckons that at the present time, the Corinthians abundance will meet the needs in Jerusalem so that at some future time, when the Corinthians find themselves in need, the Jerusalem community may be able to help from whatever abundance they may have. So, from their financial surplus, the Corinthians are to contribute toward the needs of the saints in Jerusalem with the understanding that there will be reciprocity. Paul’s point is that through the exchange of such proportionally equal gifts, equality is established.
Lord, help us not to cling on to material things but rather to be generous like the Macedonians. Allow your grace to work in us so that we can overflow with joy and generosity. Give us grace so that we learn to spend ourselves on behalf of others. AMEN
PRAYERS for TODAY
Today we pray for the following 6 things: